More British students using EU Erasmus scheme to gain experience abroad

by Ray Clancy on October 22, 2013

There has been an increase in British students taking advantage of the European wide scheme helping them to gain international experience.

The European Union’s flagship Erasmus scheme has seen a surge in applications from UK students eager to gain study and work experience abroad, up by 7 per cent to 14,607, the highest number in 25 years since the programme was launched in 1987.


The number of British students on Erasmus has more than doubled since 2006/2007, with the highest number of applications in it’s 25 year history.

The figures show that the number of British students on Erasmus has more than doubled since 2006/2007, when the British Council took over management of the scheme in the UK.

The statistics also reveal that Scottish students have begun to outperform students in the rest of the UK in terms of the proportion of their participation in Erasmus. Some 13 per cent of Erasmus participants came from Scottish institutions, despite Scottish institutions only representing 8.5 per cent of the UK’s student population as a whole.

‘The international experience offered through Erasmus has been shown to make a real difference in terms of people’s employability. So while students in Scotland deserve praise for reaching out and looking to gain highly sought-after international skills, it is a concern that students in England and Wales are beginning to slip behind,’ said Ruth Sinclair-Jones, the British Council’s head of EU programmes.

‘The UK overall is only sixth in terms of total students participating in Erasmus. We lag far behind France, Germany and Spain, who have almost three times as many young people gaining vital skills which we all need to compete in a global market,’ she added.

The Erasmus scheme, which offers students at higher education institutions in the UK a chance to spend up to a year studying or working at another institution in the EU, with the majority of costs covered, is recognised as one of the best ways for young people to gain international experience.

Erasmus is an important component of the UK government’s new Outward Student Mobility Strategy, launched this year to try and encourage more students to study abroad. This is the seventh consecutive year of growth in UK participation in the scheme.

The split across the UK countries shows that some regions are out-performing others. Scotland punches well above its weight, with 1,877 or 13 per cent of Erasmus students. English Institutions, with the highest overall UK student population sent out 79 per cent or 11,559 Erasmus students while 5 per cent came from Welsh Institutions. Northern Ireland Institutions accounted for 3 per cent or 462 students.

The University of Nottingham had the largest number of Erasmus students from England at 522, the University of Edinburgh was the highest in Scotland with 356, Cardiff University was the highest from Wales with 291 and Queen’s University Belfast with 234 was the highest for Northern Ireland.

‘Erasmus is for all students, and is an ideal way to learn another language and culture. As the number of specialist foreign language courses decline in the UK, Erasmus is becoming even more essential,’ said Sinclair-Jones.

‘Research suggests that the UK’s students are aware of the benefits of overseas experience, and it is of course positive that more of the UK’s students continue to look to spend time abroad and catch up on our European neighbours. But these latest results suggest that English students need to embrace this golden opportunity or risk being left further behind in the race for the best jobs,’ she pointed out.

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